Magazine article The Spectator

Ice-Creams All Round

Magazine article The Spectator

Ice-Creams All Round

Article excerpt

Brighton on a Friday isn't exactly Goodwood or Ascot. Where they are worn, the suits are shinier and sharper, the ties a good deal gaudier. Your binoculars pick up the runners at the seven-furlong pole over the top of the blocks of council flats in midcourse. But there is a lot to be said, too, for a track where somebody can get out the picnic blanket within 30 yards of the unsaddling enclosure and where push-chairs are welcome and the staff seem to want you to have a good time. It is, too, the sort of course where winners tend to be ridden by weather-beaten work-riders or fresh-faced apprentices while the stars are away at fancier tracks and where those with the cheaper handicappers have a chance.

Five minutes before the first, having backed Sean Woods's My Learned Friend, I encountered Epsom trainer Roger Ingram, who fancied his five-year-old gelding Random Kindness. I managed a wan smile as Random Kindness led all the way under a canny ride from Tony McGlone, holding off My Learned Friend as Roger, his daughter Rhian in his arms, whooped home his horse with shouts of `Come on Randy'.

Noting that Lambourn handler Brian Meehan had won the second race the previous year I had intended to back his La Tavernetta. But I fell into conversation with ex-trainer Gerry Blum, who had travelled to the course with another trainer who had a runner he fancied. Since Gerry Blum seems to be a lucky owner (he and his sister have won 13 races with four twoyear-olds in three seasons trained by his old friend Jack Berry) I switched my bet. Only to see the animal fade out of contention as La Tavernetta broke clear of the field with Rod Simpson's newcomer Sampower Star and won by a short head.

The ever-colourful Simpson was stretching even Brighton's informality as the first trainer I have ever seen in the unsaddling enclosure actually wearing trainers, combined with a colourful sweater and shorts of a bagginess I had only ever glimpsed previously when encountering Denis Healey on holiday on the Cote Vermeille. When one fellow scribe asked if he had mistaken the way to the safari camp Simpson replied pithily that there were plenty of camels down in the parade ring. And whatever he looks like, he can certainly train horses.

Walter Swinburn was riding the supposed hotpot Aliabad, owned by the Aga Khan, in the next. …

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